Sunday, October 1, 2017

Graveyard Peak (11,520') and Graveyard Lakes

I had a very enjoyable weekend of backpacking and scrambling with my little family. Teresa and I had not actually done a single backpacking trip all summer, so she picked up her copy of Sierra South Backcountry guide book and went looking for a trip that met the following criteria

1) Not too far from Fresno
2) Dog friendly so Penny could come
3) Less than 10 miles one way

She found that the Graveyard Lakes trail heading out from Lake Edison fit the bill. I consulted Google Earth, and found a variety of potential peaks to climb based out of the lakes basin. 

Graveyard Lake #1
 We packed up the Subaru and drove to the trailhead Friday night after work. We had a cozy night sleeping in the back of the car, and were up around 7am. After leisurely breakfast and coffee, we hit the trail by 9am.

Off we go!
 The trail meandered through forest, meadows and stream crossings for about 7 miles with ~2500' of elevation gain. A great leg stretcher, Penny had a great time!


We arrived at the first lake in the basin around noon. So we stopped and cooked up some Ramen noodles for lunch.  

Arriving at the first lake
 Teresa and Penny settled in for a nap, and I decided to head further up into the basin and try and climb the only named peak in the area, Graveyard Peak.

Nap time
 I made my way up through the lakes. A truly beautiful spot. And the best part, there was not another soul around. After spending last weekend in the chaos of humanity in Yosemite, it was nice to have some solitude. 

Graveyard Lakes. Graveyard Peak is the choss-pile on the right.

Graveyard Lakes
I made my up towards Graveyard peak. I was surpirsed to find a large snow field and snow filled couloir. Amazing that this late in the season there was still so much snow on North facing aspects. A testement to just how much snow fell last winter.

Amazing! Still snow!
 I started up some class 2/3 rock slopes making way up towards Graveyard Peak. The top of the peak was a long crest with a clear high point. At first it seemed that this might be another typical Sierra Class 2 talus slog, but some hope for interesting climbing appeared. 
I headed towards the lower end of the crest, because it looked like there might be some interesting climbing on the crest it self. 

Approaching the crest of Graveyard Peak -- Maybe some interesting climbing ahead?
 There was also some great views of the Graveyard lakes, as well as some other near by formations like Devil's Bathtub. 

Looking down on Graveyard Lakes

Devil's Bathtub (right) and Lake Edison (left)
 Once I hit the crest, I was not disappointed. What looked like a choss-pile below revealed itself to be a perfect knife-edge ridge climb. Maybe 2000' of 4th class "sidewalk in the sky" on golden sierra granite leading to a tiny summit. AMAZING! What a pleasant surprise. I love a good scramble. Moving rope-less over moderate terrain is one my favorite things to do. Off I went!

Looking ahead at the beautiful knife-edge ridge
The climbing was super-fun. It was possible to basically stay directly on the ridge-crest with moves ranging from 3rd class to 4th class. Crack climbs up blocks, slab climbing, all on perfect stone. It was possible to control the exposure if desired by down climbing, but why bother?

Perfect 4th class ridge climbing
I had such a good time. Eventually after about 25 min of scrambling I reached the tiny summit of Graveyard Peak. 

Approaching the summit block!

Such good climbing along this ridge!


I down climbed the Northeast ridge, and headed back to camp. Teresa, Penny and I enjoyed sitting by the lake and delicous meal of beans and rice. With Fall fully arrive in the Sierra's it was below freezing by the time the sun headed down so, we were in bed by 7pm!

The next morning we had a leisurely start, sitting by the perfectly reflective lake, enjoying our coffee. I am so used to climbing peaks car-to-car, this was a nice change. Its good to take your time and just take some moments to enjoy the stunning beauty of the Sierras.

Is it time for breakfast?

Perfect reflections on the lake

Morning at the Graveyard lake #1
We packed up and made our way back to the car.  What a great weekend, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Ready to tackle the work week, and maybe more importantly my psyche is starting to return...

post-hike beers


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